Nov 19

Traditional or Progressive, Conservative or Liberal Are Misleading Regarding Religions

After hearing foreign terms for religious life many times, I finally wrote my thoughts into an article.

Isn’t it time to stop labeling religious communities with alien terms?

I always wonder what commentators mean when they say a religious community is traditional or progressive, conservative or liberal. Why do we bring these foreign terms into religious life and the Church?

There obviously are different types of religious communities.

A contemplative community is different from an active one; a preaching community is different from one dedicated to serving the poor; a community might follow an Ignatian or Franciscan spirituality; it might be charismatic or do the liturgy in Latin; it might do mental prayer together in adoration or leave it for each to do on his own; and many other divisions that distinguish the hundreds of religious communities around the globe.

But none of these things make them “traditional” or “progressive,” “conservative” or “liberal.”

Read the rest on Aleteia.

Nov 17

Foster Parenting: The Forgotten Piece in the Adoption Debate

I wrote a piece on foster-parenting including an anonymous testimony of a friend.

Have you ever considered foster parenting? In the recent debate about adoption, why did the debate focus only on expensive infant adoptions? Why don’t we do more for these kids who have had a hard life? These questions – except being a foster parent as a priest – keep coming up in my mind.

In the past week, there has been some debate about the new tax bill removing the adoption tax credit. Many pro-life organizations such as the Susan B. Anthony List opposed removing this credit. SBA List stated: “This important tax credit helps tens of thousands of families each year offset the steep costs of adopting children.”

Yet there are 126,000 kids in foster care waiting for adoption. Adopting them only costs $0-2500 according to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. That isn’t that steep a cost: thus far in the debate, the cost of an adoption most commentators use has been $35-40K. That $35-40K is accurate if an adoption is an infant adoption and/or a foreign adoption but those aren’t the only types. Let’s look at how we can help foster kids: both where they are and in finding adoptive parents.

You can read the rest on Catholic Stand.

Oct 29

Silence: A challenging but valuable discipline

I wrote a spiritual reflection on silence for Aleteia:

Not long ago, I did an eight-day silent retreat. In my community we do this every year. Afterward I Tweeted out a short summary: “So often in prayer what really matters is something beyond words: the experience of God above what language can describe. I’d say the greatest fruit of my 8-day was being peacefully alone with God. That is so inadequate but language fails in describing God.”

A true thought, but far from complete. Some people assume that, as I am a priest, silence comes easily to me, but not to them. In reality, cultivating silence is hard for all of us.

But hard things are (often) valuable and worth doing. Nobody in society is going to get after my cousin for spending more than a decade to get a PhD – society realizes that although that’s difficult, it has value. Unfortunately, society often misses the value that comes from living the silence of a retreat.

Read the rest on Aleteia.

Oct 28

Unique Lebanon shows why refugees need safe zones in Syria

I wrote about the issues surrounding Syrian refugees in Lebanon over at Crux.

Most of the attention at the In Defense of Christians (IDC) summit on Christian persecution in Washington on Wednesday surrounded Vice President Mike Pence’s announcement that the U.S. would redirect funds targeted to help persecuted Christians in the Middle East away from UN-sponsored programs and towards faith-based groups.

However, some of the earlier discussions focused on Lebanon, the country in the Middle East where Christians have the strongest public presence, and make up a large proportion of the population, estimated at being over 35 percent of inhabitants.

The IDC summit took place just less than two weeks after Crux’s John Allen and Inés San Martín spent several days in the country meeting some of the 1.5 million refugees from Syria who have fled to Lebanon.

Read the rest on Crux.

Oct 28

Discovering I was a “Catholic Hipster” before that was a thing!

I wrote a book review on Aleteia:

In The Catholic Hipster Handbook, writer Mary Rezac has a chapter on buying from the local farmer’s markets as a way of living the principle of subsidiarity, but she doesn’t go to the extreme of starting your own organic farm. Looking back on my life, I think I might have been a hardcore Catholic hipster for a while — especially the 3 years before entering religious life.  At 16, my parents moved the family out of the city to a farm, which they turned organic.

Around that time, I began taking my faith seriously through media but Canada was, then, something of a Catholic media desert. I discovered I could listen to EWTN on shortwave, so I would go to bed listening to “Life on the Rock” rebroadcasts. The Catholic Hipster Handbook has a chapter on Catholic radio, too.

Yes, I was a Catholic hipster before it was a thing!

Read the rest over at Aleteia.

Oct 12

Why the Debate about Aborting Down Syndrome Babies Matters

I recently wrote on the Catholic Stand about the wider consequences of the debate around aborting those with Down Syndrome.

Iceland aborts about 98% of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down Syndrome and averages under 2 babies born with Down’s a year. CBS recently featured Iceland as “the country where Down syndrome is disappearing,” and lauded how they have “virtually eliminate[d] Down syndrome.”

Many pro-life groups quickly shot back that Iceland was boasting of no medical advance to accompany that statistic, only a death option.

Jeanne F. Mancini wrote an op-ed that was picked up by the Washington Post. In it, she pointed out that although the doctors claim they’re killing Down syndrome babies to “prevent suffering”, those with Down’s have a very happy life and rank above average on personal fulfillment. Is that suffering now?

Mancini quotes Sally Phillips, an actress famous for leading roles in several British sketch comedy shows and sitcoms who’s also the mother of a child with Down syndrome. Phillips is proposing we adapt a different perspective on Down’s: “If you stop thinking of Down syndrome as a disease, then the way you treat mothers is entirely different: you perhaps wouldn’t say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Breaking the news with the phrase ‘I’m sorry.’ There’s nothing to be sorry about. You’re lucky, actually.”

Read the rest there.

Sep 27

“Why I am Catholic?” – Bringing the Transcendentals into Apologetics

I wrote a review of “Why I am Catholic?” by Brandon Vogt for Aleteia.

When I was in my teens and 20s I loved apologetics books. I loved learning all these scriptural zingers to hit Protestants with. It made me feel secure in my faith.

But then something changed.

I realized this form of apologetics, while strengthening my own faith, did little to help others. It was just good for arguing, but not necessarily for convincing. It also seemed to miss wide swaths of the population who weren’t hardcore sola scriptura defenders but were vaguely Protestant or more-or-less nothing.

Kreeft and Tacelli’s Handbook of Christian Apologetics helped me see a way to respond to non-Christians. But something still felt incomplete.

Recently, I found the book that gives me completion. Why I Am Catholic, by Brandon Vogt, is the best book on apologetics I’ve read in a long time and one of the few apologetics books I’d feel comfortable sharing with non-Catholics…

Read the rest on Aleteia.

Aug 23

As a Church, we should value new and existing members

I wrote on Crux about the current debate regarding the value of the words of cradle Catholics and converts.

800px-G._K._Chesterton_at_work-690x450One aspect of genius in Catholicism is its universality. Often, we think about this when we consider how the Catholic Church has lasted 2000 years or how it has expanded to almost every corner of the globe. But there is another aspect that can easily be lost: It accepts and brings in many types of people.

Before his conversion, G.K. Chesterton wondered how Christianity could be such a twisted edifice that it included a swashbuckling general like Don Juan of Austria and a pacifist contemplative like St. Bruno, the founder of the Carthusians.

He concludes pointing out how we take in all the extremes: “We want not an amalgam or compromise, but both things at the top of their energy; love and wrath both burning… For orthodox theology has specially insisted that Christ was not a being apart from God and man, like an elf, nor yet a being half human and half not, like a centaur, but both things at once and both things thoroughly, very man and very God. Now let me trace this notion as I found it.”

Read the rest on Crux.

Jul 08

Applying Six Offline Models to Online Evangelization

I wrote an article on evangelizing online on Homiletic & Pastoral Review about how to evangelize online.

The-Water-of-Life-Discourse-between-Jesus-and-the-Samaritan-Woman-at-the-Well-by-Angelika-KauffmannThe Internet has now opened up as a wide field for our evangelization. Much of the cultural interchange now takes place via such electronic means. The Church is called to step out into every new forum and evangelize it, yet for the online forum what would mainly have is individual examples and not a systematic application of existing offline models into the online world.

As someone who has been involved in this world, I’ve seen a lot of people try, and some of them succeed. I built up a following of 40,000 on Twitter by understanding its dynamics, and realizing in what respects it is the same as, and different from, other methods of human communication. I was always a bit of a tech geek: in the 80s I was writing elementary book reports on an old Turbo XT, and even studied two years of computer engineering before switching to become a Catholic priest. I was into religious stuff online back in the mid to late nineties. I intuitively grasped different ways that people were evangelizing online. But upon recently reading a book on models of evangelization, I find I have a concrete schema to categorize the main ways in which I see this happening.

In The Great Commission, Timothy E. Byerley presents six models of evangelization in American Catholicism. Along with explaining each model, Byerley presents historical examples of each model, and ideas for their application today. However, other than one mention that new technological means of preaching need to be used at the end of the proclamation model, he does not mention evangelizing via the Internet. This essay is an attempt to fill that gap by adapting each of his models online.

Each model will follow the same basic structure: a brief summary of the model, suggestions for how each model can be applied online, and a person or group evangelizing using that model online. Some models are obviously more easily transferred than others—it is a whole lot easier to preach than to distribute meals to the homeless online.

The examples I picked present one way this is being done today, but there are three important caveats: like examples in Byerley’s book, most evangelization mixes these models; I try to show various platforms rather than focusing on one; and I chose examples for clarity of the model, not necessarily the best at that model.

Jun 24

How can we as Church do better on suicide?

I wrote a few ideas on how we can better deal with suicide earlier this week.

web3-depressed-woman-bridge-silhouette-shutterstock_355955540-shutterstockWe might think we’re among the compassionate ones. But are we really?

I was speaking recently to a young woman whose friend had taken her own life. The friend had always been one of those girls with the biggest smile. But one fall she started acting depressed and within a few months the young girl had attempted suicide multiple times, finally succeeding. The family would tell people that their daughter got sick and died, not mentioning the type of sickness.

Back when I was in high school, a friend was hospitalized and put on a 72-hour suicide watch. We had seen him a little off but I couldn’t comprehend how things had gotten that serious. Suicide had always seemed to me like something you read about in books, but not something that might affect me personally.

In the Church, we don’t always talk about suicide and mental health in the best way. Until recently, people who took their own lives were denied a Catholic funeral because suicide (as the taking of a life) is grave matter. But what that old prohibition missed was the degree of freedom in most suicides, or really, the lack thereof.

Read the rest on Aleteia.

Jun 10

Catholicism Often Gets the Short End of the Stick on Both Sides of Academia

I wrote a piece comparing Catholic institutions’ response to dissent vs. secular institutions’ response to Catholicism on Catholic Stand.

studyPaul Griffiths is an expert on Catholic thought, holding the Warren Professor of Catholic thought at Duke Divinity School but this past month he was forced to resign for questioning liberal orthodoxy.

On the other hand, last week, the Newman Society listed nine Catholic colleges who were commencement speakers who disagreed with Catholic teaching. One of these honorees went so far as to say, “New York will not tolerate any impediments or impairments of women’s rights and access to reproductive health care,” while forcing insurance companies to cover contraception and some abortions. Another commencement speaker had a 100% pro-abortion voting record, according to NARAL, during his 14 years in Congress.

Many Catholic Schools Capitulate

Catholic schools also face huge fines and protests if they fire someone for being in a gay marriage while others cave on Catholic teaching to defend their right to hire active homosexuals as staff.

This seems to follow a pattern where Catholic schools capitulate on the basis of academic freedom while secular schools discriminate against Catholicism based on their own orthodox neoliberalism. Classical liberalism is open to various opinions and will be perfectly fine with a professor who taught Catholic thought and believes what the Catholic Church teaches.

Read the rest on the Catholic Stand.

Jun 03

Müller’s defense of ‘Amoris Laeitia’ reads it in Church tradition

Card. Müller came out strongly in support of reading Amoris Laetitia last week so I summarized it and commented.

20170109T0953-7162-CNS-MULLER-DUBIA_800-690x450On Thursday of last week, Cardinal Gerhard Müller continued his defense of an orthodox reading of Amoris Laeitia in the most forceful manner yet in an interview with EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo.

Müller, the head of the Vatican’s doctrine office, has maintained that Amoris Laetitia should be interpreted in line with tradition in interviews published in December 2016 and February 2017. However, this is his most forceful defense.

When asked about the exhortation, Müller immediately goes to the core of what the synods and Amoris were about: “To underline the importance of the marriage and the families and the marriage especially the marriage between baptized persons as the sacrament.”

It is not just about the question of Communion for the divorced and remarried.

Before getting to the main point, the cardinal sets a few preliminaries. First, “It is absolutely impossible that the Pope […] presents a doctrine which is plainly against the words of Jesus Christ.” Second, “The doctrine according to the indissolubility of the matrimony, of the sacramental matrimony is absolutely clear.”

Read the rest over at Crux.

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